Abdul Ali


for Romare Bearden

I watch the moon
make silver shadow puppets through
my venetian blinds bouncing off one
of your collages: the one with the
men playing cards

big men, cool
black as a breezeless
night, bodies lanky like spoons
shiny as pearl
cracking like
a Harlem fish fry

hats big like
pineapple slices
rings of Saturn

I sit up at night
wishing that I
was in one of your
collages my face plastered
against an uptown fellow
peering downtown. Eyes big
at the sight of a thousand new

David Carlson
White Fang Black Tooth
oil and acrylic on wood
, 10” x 10”
see more work by David Carlson


..............my nose flares up like bell bottoms
at the smell of Maine with its salted winds
..............drinking soup out of ceramic bowls
..............tasting wood
under a silver half moon beaming off the sea
..............covered in nickel

Now, we stand one bootless foot in front of the other
.......Remembering high school pinky swears that red carpets
would lay between our steps and littered dead-end streets
..............that now retreat like migratory birds flying south

Do you remember those fortune cookies, silk napkins that fed our
..............Unknowing .......the laughter
Walks to the freeway
.....................The sound of broken fire hydrants .......water flowing
how we laughed with ease reading the backs of laffy taffy wrappers
.......waiting for the joke before innocence bled
like a first fall on new flesh

At nightfall, would you remember?
.....................That we were once young sucking mouthfuls of air
Watching the noonday sky rearrange its pillows

....... No different than time moving in tune with you no different than me
running to find Maine: our own language to talk about growing up



sometimes I choke on your laughter
watch with green envy how your face
beams when I enter the room.
is it petty of me to lament that I never
had a father like you—to annoy, mimic,
question, lift your perfect feet up
to wipe your ass, to fall asleep on, to share a face with,
a last name, a space, time, two arms?



I can still smell the empty bullet caps—all of them—
lining a vestibule smelling of urine stench,
a warm African body covered in sweat, fragrant oils,
blood reflecting four apathetic moon-faced
NYPD officers.

haven’t we all heard this familiar tale?

I stopped believing in God for weeks.
how and why did you let this happen?

couldn’t you command the safety on?
bend back their fingers?
save him like you did Ishmael?
why are we always up for slaughter, sacrificed?

the way he was nailed to the asphalt wet with blood and piss.
was Amadou our Muslim Christ?

‘cause I saw his body unfold wide open into the letter T
holding his wallet and the nails—this time bullets—
perforating, pressing, and pushing through his
guileless, Guinean frame.

how could one black man be that dangerous?
he was twenty-three the same age as me. If
a wallet scared them so, what will they think
of my black pen?

that summer I knew in my bones
that every black man in America
had something in common:
an Emmit Till,
Rodney King;
an Aunt named Assata Shakur;
an Amadou Diallo.
how we become brothers in death while
coughing on life breathing the red, white, and blue
pointed behind the barrel of a gun.



almost like dancing

when the music slows the floor folds
into a moleskin notebook;

I wait for an omen between its lines, a knock
from the other side,

listen for a pause .......a breath
between moving pictures;

sweat and blood stains the page plum
I hear its voice in curlicued letters whispering

let's boogie



Abdul Ali is a native of New York City living in Washington DC. He was educated at Howard University where he studied English and Theatre. He has read his work throughout the Metropolitan DC area and published in periodicals including the Washington Post and Black Issues Book Review. He is the 2007 winner of the Mt. Vernon Poetry Festival prize. His website: http://www.poeticnoise1984.com.


Published in Volume 9, Number 2, Spring 2008.


To read more by this author:
Abdul Ali : Evolving City Issue